WEST JEFFERSON — Local speakers at The Corey Anne Celebration of Women in the Arts Symposium emphasized the importance of finding and pursuing life passions to an audience at Florence Thomas Art School the morning of Saturday, Aug. 17.

“I told my daughter sometimes — if you find a passion in life, it’ll give your life a trajectory,” keynote speaker Mary Greene said. “It sends you places you never dreamed you could go. Let us all delight in the glories of life, and the wonders around us.”

A crowd of more than two dozen sat in the gallery at 10 S. Jefferson Ave., listening to Greene pluck her Appalachian dulcimer and sing mountain songs, demonstrating her passion for — and connection to — folk music.

“I got exposed to people who made music a joy,” Greene said. “Every time I do music, I am bringing my culture, my people, my stories — the stories of these people have always fascinated me.”

Using her dulcimer, Greene — a lifelong musician and recently retired Westwood Elementary School music teacher — played an old Appalachian ballad, a shape note tune and other songs that inspired her musicianship.

The symposium Aug. 17 was the pinnacle of the seventh annual Corey Anne Celebration of Women in the Arts, an event held at Florence Thomas Art School each August in honor of Corey Anne Considine, who is remembered by her passion for art and as an advocate for women.

Other speakers at The Corey Anne Celebration of Women in the Arts Symposium included four local artists whose works are featured in the Florence Thomas Art School gallery for the duration of August: landscape painter Kim Abernethy, potter Elizabeth Lauer — the celebration’s emerging artist — plus mother-daughter painters Norma and Jennifer Murphy.

Each of the women spoke on their passions for creating art, and the personal connections to their mediums.

Corey Anne’s sister, Julia Considine, acknowledged Ashe County Arts Council as The Florence Thomas Influence on the Arts Award recipient for 2019, in recognition of the organization’s widespread impact on the arts and culture of Ashe County.

On behalf of Ashe County Arts Council, board president Becky Marsten accepted the award, which for 2019 is a blue ceramic vase atop a stained wooden plaque.

“We try very hard to promote the arts in our schools, in the community and to visitors who come to see us,” Marsten said. “I will take this proudly back to the arts center and share it with everyone — thank you.”

Greene closed off the event with a sing-along rendition of “Keep on the Sunny Side,” as church bells in downtown West Jefferson rang the tune for noon.

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